GET screened — that’s the key message from the Irish Cancer Society, as Cervical Cancer Prevention Week takes place this week.
They are urging women to ensure that they are up to-date with their cervical cancer screening.
Naomi Fitzgibbon, Cancer Nurseline Manager with the Irish Cancer Society said: “In Ireland, an average of 300 women every year are diagnosed with cervical cancer and it is the second most common female cancer in Europe. While these numbers are reducing, it is still absolutely vital that women take part in their screening and keep up to date with their free smear tests.
“Cervical cancer takes a long time to develop and often has no symptoms, which is why regular screening is crucial.
“All women between the ages of 25 and 60 are entitled to free tests through the State’s CervicalCheck screening programme and can arrange the test with their own local GP or family planning clinic.
“In terms of the screening itself, it is quite a straightforward procedure where a sample of cells is taken from the cervix or the neck of the womb. It can be a little uncomfortable at times but is not at all painful and should only take about 15 minutes. Those 15 minutes could be really crucial if they are reducing your risk of cervical cancer.”
Mr Fitzgibbon also referred to the HPV vaccine.
“One of biggest risk factors for developing cervical cancer is a HPV infection, which is a virus passed on during sex. The HPV vaccination schools based programme for girls in first year in secondary school was rolled out by the National Immunisation Office in September 2010.
“The combination of a HPV vaccination programme along with an effective screening programme has the potential to reduce the incidence of cervical cancers by up to 90%.”
The ICS supports the Irish Family Planning Association Pearl of Wisdom campaign. The Pearl of Wisdom is the international emblem of cervical cancer prevention. They distribute Pearls of Wisdom and information leaflets to women around the country, including to the ICS network of 13 Daffodil Centres.
“We would urge all women to wear the pin and support the campaign,” Fitzgibbon concluded.
The Irish Cancer Society added that all women should be aware of the signs and symptoms of cervical cancer. These include:
Abnormal vaginal bleeding. For example, bleeding in between your periods, after sex or after the menopause.
Blood-stained vaginal discharge that may have a foul smell.
Discomfort or pain in your pelvis
Anyone who has any symptoms that could be caused by cervical cancer should get them checked out by their doctor without delay. The symptoms can occur in other conditions as well but it is always much safer to get checked.
Contact CervicalCheck on 1800 45 45 55 or check out www.cervicalcheck.ie, to find out when your next appointment is due.
To speak to a cancer nurse on any aspect of cervical cancer contact our Cancer Nurseline on Freephone 1800 200 700, email email@example.com
Or drop into one of the 13 Daffodil Centre in hospitals nationwide. For information on Daffodil Centre locations and opening times email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit www.cancer.ie for cancer information and support services.